Historic Beer Birthday: Adolph Coors

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Today is the birthday of Adolph Coors (February 4, 1847-June 5, 1929) whose full name was Adolph Hermann Josef Coors, although it’s probable that the Coors surname was originally spelled Kuhrs, or something like that. Coors was born in what today is Germany, in the town of Barmen, part of Rhenish Prussia, or Rhineland. After being orphaned as a fifteen-year old boy, he continued the apprenticeship he’d begun earlier at the Wenker Brewery in Dortmund, and later on was a paid employee. When he was 21, he stowed aboard a ship in Hamburg and made his way to New York City, where he changed the family name to its present spelling. By spring he’d moved to Chicago, and shortly thereafter became a foreman of John Stenger’s brewery in nearby Napierville, where he worked for the next four years.

At the beginning of 1872, he resigned and headed west, to Denver, Colorado. Coors took a few odd jobs, and then he purchased a partnership in the bottling firm of John Staderman, buying out his partner later the same year, assuming control of the entire business. But it was the following year, on November 14, 1873, that the Coors empire really began. On that day, Adolph Coors, along with Denver confectioner Jacob Schueler, bought the Golden City Tannery, which had been abandoned, in Golden, Colorado, and transformed it into the Golden Brewery. “By February 1874 they were producing beer for sale. In 1880 Coors purchased Schueler’s interest, and the brewery was renamed Adolph Coors Golden Brewery.”

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And here’s a short biography from the Colorado Encyclopedia:

Adolph Coors (1847–1929) immigrated to the United States in 1868 after serving as a brewery apprentice in western Germany and then in the Kingdom of Prussia. After working in Chicago breweries, he moved to Colorado in 1872 and purchased a bottling company. He transformed it into the Coors Brewing Company and became one of Colorado’s wealthiest and most influential men during the early twentieth century.

After moving to Denver, Coors promptly bought into a bottling company and became the sole owner by the end of the year. In 1873 he started looking for a place to build a brewery with access to clean mountain water and found one at the abandoned Golden Tannery. He partnered with candy store owner and fellow German Jacob Scheuler to purchase the tannery and turned it into the Scheuler and Coors Brewing Company, one of the first breweries in the area. By 1874, even in the midst of economic crisis, the company was making 800 gallons of beer a day. Their beer was valued for its taste, consistency, and crispness.

Coors hired many German immigrants to run his beer factory, bottling plant, malt house, and icehouse. He invested heavily in new technology, such as metal bottle caps and increased automation. In 1879 he married Louisa Weber. The couple had six children – three daughters and three sons. That same year, he bought out Scheuler and became the sole owner of Coors Brewing. He allowed his workers to join the United Brewery Workmen of the United States and paid them well. The brewery famously provided free beer to its workers during breaks. By 1890, Coors was a millionaire, a US citizen, and a medal winner at the Chicago World’s Fair.

The movement to abolish alcohol began to gather momentum in the late nineteenth century. Coors correctly diversified his investments; beer may be recession-proof, but it would not weather Prohibition. In 1916, when Prohibition began in Colorado, Coors shifted his manufacturing from beer to milk products and porcelain. In 1933, with the repeal of Prohibition, Coors returned to his preferred product but continued to manufacture other goods.

Coors generally remained aloof from Denver high society, but he felt great kinship with his employees and identified with them as a craftsman. He instituted more breaks, better working conditions, and higher wages for his workers than did almost all other brewers. But Coors became disillusioned with his product in the early twentieth century, after pasteurization (the heating of beer to kill microbes) and mass marketing transformed the beer industry. Coors took his life in 1929 by jumping from his hotel balcony in Virginia Beach. In his will, he stipulated that his hotel bill be paid in its entirety; otherwise, he left no note and no reason for his action. Coors is remembered for his entrepreneurial spirit, his rags-to-riches immigrant story, and his dedication to the craft of brewing beer.

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A portrait of Adolph Coors by artist Bill Moomey

Coors was elected to the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 1990, who produced a short film of his life for the induction ceremony:

And here’s an early postcard depicting the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. It’s a remarkable place and you should definitely take the tour if you ever get near that part of the world.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Adolph Coors III

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Today is also the birthday of Adolph Coors III (January 12, 1916-February 9, 1960). He was Chairman of the Board of Coors Brewing Co. and the grandson of founder Adolph Coors.

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Adolph Coors III in the late 1950s.

Adolph Coors III also has a short Wikipedia page:

Coors was born on January 12, 1916, the son of Alice May (née Kistler; 1885-1970) and Adolph Coors II. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Like most of his family, including brother Joseph Coors, Adolph graduated from Cornell University, where he was president of the Quill and Dagger society and a member of The Kappa Alpha Society. Coors was also a semi-professional baseball player.

On February 9, 1960, while on his way to work, he was murdered at the age of 44 in a foiled kidnapping attempt by escaped murderer Joseph Corbett, Jr. in Colorado. In September, the remains of Coors were found by hunters in a remote area around Pikes Peak. The subject of an international manhunt, Corbett was captured in Vancouver, British Columbia in October of that year.

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The Adolph Coors Company Board of Directors posing together at the dedication of the new headhouse at the brewery in Golden, Col., on April 16, 1952. Three men are standing and three men are seated on top of the headhouse. Standing in back left to right are brothers, William K. Coors, Joseph Coors, and Adolph Coors III. Seated in front left to right are brothers Grover Coors, Herman Coors, and Adolph Coors II (from the Golden History Museum).

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“Ad,” as he apparently was known, was “an avid skier” and “was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1998.”

Skiing was a passion to “Ad”, as he is affectionately known, grandson of the founder of Coors Brewing Company. “Ad was an avid, enthusiastic and inexhaustible skier”, his brother Bill Coors remembers. “He was involved not only in the sport of skiing itself but active in its development as a major Colorado industry and in the promotion of Colorado as Ski Country, USA.” He imparted his love of the sport to his friends and family. A highly polished skier, he took every opportunity away from the brewery to hit the slopes on family vacations. “He wanted to help those he really cared about to gain a taste of the sport he loved,” recalls Cecily Garnsey, Coors’ daughter. Ad was instrumental in developing modern skiing in Colorado. He channeled his love and his resources toward establishing quality ski resorts in Colorado. He helped to found the Aspen Ski Corporation in 1946, and served on the board of directors until his tragic death on February 9, 1960. He was present at the opening of Sun Valley, became one of the earliest members of the Arlberg Ski Club at Winter Park in 1938, and was becoming involved with the development of Vail at the time of his death. Ad also helped to establish ski racing in the state, by bringing the World Alpine Ski Championships to Aspen in 1950 (serving as Finance Chairman), the first time the event was held in the US. His daughter remembers, “He loved to ski. He loved Colorado. And he wanted to see a marriage of the two.” Ad was a skier for life, and he tirelessly contributed time, money and energy to help others understand and appreciate his love for the sport.

Historic Beer Birthday: Adolph Coors II

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Today is the birthday of Adolph Coors II, who was born Adolph Herman Joseph Coors, Jr. (January 12, 1884-June 28, 1970). He was the second president of Coors Brewing Co. and the son of founder Adolph Coors.

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Adolph Coors II in 1933.

Adolph Coors II has a short Wikipedia page:

Coors was a graduate of Cornell University, where he was a member of the Sphinx Head Society and the Beta Delta chapter of Beta Theta Pi. He became an accomplished chemist who worked in prominent positions in the family’s brewing and porcelain operations. He married Alice May Kistler (1885–1970) of Denver[3] on May 4, 1912, at the Kistler home by Rev. Van Arsdall. The couple had four children: Adolph Coors III (1915–1960) who was kidnapped and killed in 1960; William K. Coors (1916), Joseph Coors (1917–2003), and May Louise Coors (1923–2008).

Coors had his own brush with kidnapping in 1934. Paul Robert Lane, the former state Prohibition agent for Colorado, along with Clyde Culbertson, former investigator for the federal dry forces, along with two other men conspired to kidnap Adolph Jr. for a ransom of $50,000. The person delivering the money was to proceed to three different checkpoints to ensure no officers were tailing him and then split the money; Coors would be released somewhere around Colorado Springs. Denver police learned of the plot while working on an auto theft ring and Adolph Jr. volunteered to be kidnapped so the police could arrest the suspects. However, Lane was arrested on an auto theft charge and the conspiracy was foiled in advance.

Adolph Coors Jr. died in 1970 at the age of 86 years.

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The Adolph Coors Company Board of Directors posing together at the dedication of the new headhouse at the brewery in Golden, Col., on April 16, 1952. Three men are standing and three men are seated on top of the headhouse. Standing in back left to right are brothers, William K. Coors, Joseph Coors, and Adolph Coors III. Seated in front left to right are brothers Grover Coors, Herman Coors, and Adolph Coors II (from the Golden History Museum).

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A few years after his death in 1970, the Coors Foundation was established using “funds from the Adolph Coors, Jr. Trust. The foundation has awarded $135.3 million USD since 1975. It focuses its efforts generally within the state of Colorado. In 1993 it provided the endowment funds for the creation of the Castle Rock Foundation, which awards grants to causes throughout the United States.

Patent No. 4838419A: Keg Board

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Today in 1989, US Patent 4838419 A was issued, an invention of Ferdinand Weits, William F. Mekelburg and Marc R. Latour, assigned to the Adolph Coors Company, for their “Keg Board.” Here’s the Abstract:

A keg board for use in stacking beer kegs and the like in an upright orientation during storage and transporation of the kegs comprising: a generally planar surface for engaging and supporting a generally planar end surface of each keg; and pockets operatively associated with the planar surface for limiting relative lateral shifting movement of the kegs such as caused by shocks and vibration associated with transporting of the kegs.

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Patent No. 20080110854A1: Beverage Bottle With Gripping Feature

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Today in 2008, US Patent 20080110854 A1 was issued, an invention of Jason M. Kelly, assigned to Coors Brewing Company, for his “Beverage Bottle With Gripping Feature.” Here’s the Abstract:

A container is provided with integral gripping features. The gripping features are preferably provided in two opposing groups located on opposite sides of the mid-section of the container. The gripping features include a plurality of finger grips that are adapted to conform to the placement of the thumb and fingers when grasping the container. The finger grips are elliptical shaped cavities, and ridges extend between each of the adjacent finger grips.

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Beer In Ads #1114: Tastes Refreshing Naturally


Wednesday’s ad is for Coors, from 1970. This is from the time when Coors was still only sold in the Western states, and as a result enjoyed a certain cult status in the East. I remember they had a lot of these minimalist ads, beauty shots, showing simply the Rocky Mountains, a stream of Rocky Mountain Spring Water, and a glass of beer. BUt is it just me, or does that pilsner glass have some odd bumps on it?

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Beer In Film #19: Coors Light Party Train Crash

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Today’s beer video is from the humorists at the Onion, “America’s Finest News Source.” So rest assured that the breaking news from the Onion News Network about Hundreds Feared Dead In Coors Light Party Train Crash is just a spoof. Personally, I think the train crashed because Peyton Manning asked for a Bud Light after quarterbacking in the land of Coors.

Coors Banquet Beer Puts Out Fire

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This is awesome news, somebody finally figured out a good use for Coors Banquet Beer. ABC News is reporting that a Texas firefighter used cans of Coors’ beer to put out a truck fire. Apparently, Houston fire captain Craig Moreau and his wife were returning home after a trip to Austin when they happened upon an 18-wheel big rig on the side of the road, on fire. The trucker and Moreau used a fire extinguisher, but it quickly ran out. They thought they got it all, but underneath the truck it was still burning, having started in the brakes but spread to a tire.

Moreau asked the trucker what his cargo was, and discovered the truck was full of cans of Coors Banquet Beer. They grabbed cans from the back, and the pair “began shaking and spraying cans of beer on the blaze, and the fire went out.”

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“I have no doubt if the beer hadn’t been there, the whole trailer would have burned up,” Moreau said. According to the Houston Chronicle’s coverage, “the tire continued to burn and eventually exploded. Fortunately, the beer worked and the blaze was eventually extinguished.” Go Banquet Beer!

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A story in every can, indeed.

The Top Beer Brand Of 2012

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I don’t want to wade neck deep into the “craft vs. crafty” debate — I’m not quite finished digesting it all — so I’m trying to not comment too much about this, yet in this instance, I’m going to at least stick my toe into the murky waters of this issue. (Oh, and a hat tip to Evan Benn for tweeting about this.)

Ace Metrix, a company based in nearby Mountain View, has just released their list of the Top Brands and Ads of 2012. Ace Metrix characterizes themselves as “the new standard in television and video analytics.”

They picked the top brand in fifteen different broad categories. The award does not go to the company with the best product, but to the one that had the best advertising last year, that is whoever received the “highest average Ace Score for their body of work in 2012.” This is best illustrated by reviewing some of the other category “winners.” For example, Olive Garden won for restaurants, so that should tell you something.

In the category “Beverages — Alcoholic” the winner was Blue Moon. You can even view the five Blue Moon commercials that got the highest scores. Now, I like Blue Moon. It’s not a bad beer. It may not be my favorite wit, but unlike many other beers made by big companies, I will drink it if my choices are limited. I know its creator, Keith Villa (who also stars in the commercials), and I’ve judged with him at GABF several times. It’s a great entry level beer, and has been phenomenally successful in that regard and also in marketing itself as not being part of Coors, in the same way that Saturn cars did in setting themselves apart from GM.

But that’s the way of the world, at least in our peculiar pro-corporate brand of capitalism. In brewing, I have to say, things are a lot more transparent than in many other industries. There was also a Geekologie chart of Parent Companies and their Subsidiary Brands, but the site’s been more recently hacked, to get an idea of how literally hundreds of brands are owned by just ten corporations. And I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that most people weren’t aware of more than a few of those relationships, believing many of those brands to be independent or small companies, if they even cared at all.

Maybe it’s because in the world of beer geekdom we pay so much more attention, but most of the stealth brands like Blue Moon are open secrets. They may not talk about who owns the brands, but the information is out there and available if you bother to look. The thing is, most people don’t. If they like it, they drink it, and they buy it. Period.

Where the trouble comes in, I think, is when doing so infringes on another’s business ethos, or whatever. When small specialty breweries first started popping up, the big guys were initially somewhat helpful but as they began eating into their market share, things started to change. Over the years we’ve seen many attempts, with varying degrees of success, to copy or acquire anything that’s successful. In a sense it’s human nature, or certainly business nature. Do you think it’s an accident that after any successful film or television series, similar shows in the same genre proliferate with alarming alacrity?

But back to the Ace Metrix and their top brands of 2012. In their press release, in a section entitled “Brands of the Year Illuminate Many Notable Themes,” there’s this headline: “Craft Beer and Juice Beat Out Big Beer and Soda Brands.” Here’s the relevant bits about beer:

A changing of the guard was not only seen in the technology category, but also in the beverage category in which Blue Moon usurped the top spot from ‘big beer,’ and Ocean Spray ousted Coca-Cola from the winner’s platform. … Blue Moon swept the Alcoholic Beverage Category with an average Ace Score of 538, beating out big beer brands like Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light, all of which failed to even make the Watch List this year, a stark comparison to 2011.

See the problem? How can Blue Moon have usurped anything from “big beer” when it really is a big beer. And that’s why the Brewers Association had to come out with its recent controversial statement, because even professional business analysts don’t realize who owns what, so what chance do consumers have?

I’m going to steer clear of the BA’s statement itself, at least for now, except to say that I thought the excellent rebuttal by August Schell was heart-wrenching and perfectly illustrated the problems of such statements and definitions. Because those characterizations only matter internally, among insiders and the businesses and professionals working in those industries. And while once upon a time those inner workings remained … well, internal … today almost everything is out in the open, on the internet, and often what might better be private insider discussions become full-blown public debates. Sometimes, it’s simply exhausting.

It’s a bit like beer styles themselves. They only really matter in very rarified situations, like competition judging. In the real world, they matter very little. It’s the same with trying to define beer, or craft beer, or whatever we’re calling it now. I completely understand why the BA needs to define craft beer, because their mission is to promote craft beer. You have to know exactly what and who it is you’re promoting in order to do your job. I get that. From private discussions I had a few years ago with people who were involved in crafting the newer definition over about a year’s time, it was apparently a very contentious process and was extremely difficult because with every changed word, someone was excluded or someone you didn’t think belonged remained. It reminds me a little of a famous quip made by a Supreme Court justice in Jacobellis v. Ohio when, in trying to define hardcore pornography and create an obscenity threshold, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that it was difficult to define, but that “I know it when I see it.”

And that’s the problem, because how you define craft beer is, and should be, different things to different people, with varying priorities and concerns. It may be one thing to the BA, but something else entirely for an average consumer and yet again something more stringent to a hardcore beer geek. The thing is, everybody’s both right and wrong on this one, at least as I see it. When you’re talking about personal preference, it’s ultimately just that: personal. Like pornography or even religion, whatever you believe is correct, for you. Whatever you choose to drink is right for you. I may disagree with your choice, but that’s okay. Happily, they come in these little 12, 16 or 22 oz. bottles and cans, or can be poured into single-serving sizes of glassware, so that we can all just drink what we want, definitions be damned.